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You should really switch up your study spot

These Bellingham cafes are a late-night alternative to studying at home

The sign for the Horseshoe Cafe in Bellingham, Wash. on Dec. 3, 2023. Not only is the Horseshoe Cafe the oldest restaurant currently operating in Washington, it’s also one of the few places in Bellingham regularly open past midnight. // Photo by Aubrey Black

With finals week looming over students, the subject of studying can be a tender one. Some study spaces just don’t cut it – the dorms can be loud, apartments can drain motivation and sometimes the library is just too quiet.

To solve these problems, Bellingham is home to many cafes and coffee shops. However, most of them close early in the afternoon. 

So, what's a student to do when the motivation or availability to study hits after the sun goes down?

The Horseshoe Cafe in downtown Bellingham is open seven days a week, from 9 to 2 a.m. on weekdays and until 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. 

Kate Groen, co-owner of the Horseshoe Cafe, uses her past experiences as a student to inform her decisions. 

“When I was a student at Western, there were times when I needed a change of scenery,” Groen said. “I couldn’t just be studying in my room all night long, there were too many distractions.”

Groen even went to Horseshoe Cafe for some late-night study sessions. It’s important to her that the Horseshoe Cafe continues to be a place where students can come and work.

“Students are what make downtown Bellingham what it is,” Groen said. “Students are always welcome to come and study.”

Cafe Blue in Fairhaven is another popular study location among Western students. It’s usually open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, but they recently started a weekly study hall on Mondays from 5 to 9 p.m.

Micah Jones bought Cafe Blue in summer 2023. He started the study hall hours to expand the cafe’s reach, as well as provide a space for students to gather and study.

“Coming from my experience, I had a lot of issues with roommates and not having my own space,” Jones said. “I wish I could’ve had a place to run away to when I was in school.” 

Similar to Groen, Jones attended Western before owning Cafe Blue. He noticed the only places open late-night were bars, finding that Denny’s was the only suitable alternative. 

“Especially with Western being so close, we want to create a space for students to go to at night that won’t be super loud, like a bar,” Jones said.

Adalie Granger frequents Cafe Blue’s Monday night study halls and said she’s excited that they have extended their hours.

“I follow Cafe Blue on Instagram and when I saw the first study hall post, I knew it fit into my schedule,” Granger said. “I have attended almost every study hall they have hosted and what keeps me coming back is the environment of the cafe.”

Granger swears by studying in cafes and is glad there are late-night options in Bellingham to accommodate students with busy daytime schedules.

“I feel like I get more done in a place like Cafe Blue,” Granger said. “I thrive academically in an environment that has some sort of action, but also allows me to really focus on my work.”

It seems counterintuitive to work in a space that has noise, like a cafe, rather than a place like the library, but a study done by the University of Illinois may have an explanation as to why some people prefer it. 

Ravi Mehta, Rui Zhu and Amar Cheema tested the effects of noise levels on creative productivity. Over five tests, they assessed participants’ creative thinking ability in environments with low ambient noise, mild ambient noise and loud ambient noise.

They found that quieter ambient noise allows for focus and louder ambient noise is too distracting for productivity. 

Most notably, the mild ambient noise – around 70 decibels – is ideal for innovative, on-the-fly thinking.

This noise level disrupts logical brain function enough to encourage abstract creative thinking, making new ideas flow easier.

70 decibels is around the noise level created by coffee shop bustle, like the espresso machines and scattered chatter, making environments like Cafe Blue or Horseshoe Cafe ideal for this type of studying.

So go forth, study and support local businesses this finals season.

Aubrey Black

Aubrey Black (she/they) is a second-year news-ed major at Western. She enjoys making Spotify playlists and perusing used bookstores. 

You can contact her at

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